Gateshead Soul Fans Open Meeting
25th September, 2019 at Pelaw Social Club

Committee: Bernard McWilliams (Chair),  Tracie Wilson (Secretary), Ross Black (Fundraising/events officer), Karl McInnes (Membership officer), Dave Allen (Merchandise officer), David Kenny (Webmaster and media officer), Josh Youll (Youth Liaison)

Apologies: Andrew McInnes, Gary Mange

Welcome and introduction:

BM thanked those in attendance.

Position of Vice-Chair and Treasurer:

Following the resignation of Tony Carter, the position is now vacant. Stephen Thornton was been nominated and ratified by those present and has accepted the position.

Following the resignation of Ronnie Spraggon, the position was also vacant. The executive committee co-opted Alan Weddle from the Extended Committee. The decisions were ratified by those present.

We would like to place on record our thanks to Tony Carter and Ronnie Spragon for their help with the Supporters Club and Gateshead Soul association.

Supporter’s Trust:

BM: When the Gateshead Soul was formed we had to decide between creating a supporter’s association or a supporter’s trust. At the time it was felt that an association was the best choice.  The Gateshead Soul owns 20% of the club and Neil Pinkerton holds the shares on our behalf. For us to legally own those shares we need to become a trust.

Introduction of Gareth Cummins of the Football Supporter’s Association:

GC: There are differences between an association and a trust. A trust is a serious entity with status within the law which must abide by rules and regulations and be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. To have equity and ownership you must be a trust. There are around 45 supporter’s trusts, either full or part owners of their clubs. It gives community ownership and empowers supporters to own a stake in their clubs. They are often formed when supporters have to pick up the pieces of a badly run club and there is usually no existing group in place. The Soul is different as we already have an organised group of paying members.  It can be legally difficult to convert an association to a trust and may be easier to form a new organisation. The committee and members can vote to dissolve the association upon the formation of the trust. All members will need to be contacted. 

Once the trust is formed, you are then shareholders with a voice in the club. You have legal rights as supporters and a say in how the club is run and representation on the board. The interests of members are protected.

Trusts can take several months to set up. There are model rules and agreements that must be followed. The FSA can help as they have experience and expertise that we can call on.  The FSA think a trust is the best thing we can do as fans to protect our rights.

Question: Would the direct debit have to change?

GC: we would have to check with lawyers but it may be a simple process to change the name of the bank account. Hopefully, it will be a seamless process.

Question: If we legally own one fifth, how can we be sure we can pay our share?

BM: We would have a legal obligation to pay our share on becoming a trust but our shareholders are aware that our situation is different.

Question: Does Neil know about the plan to become a trust?

BM: He is our representative and had been involved in all negotiations. Neil holds our shares in trust for us.

Question: Are there any costs associated in setting up and running as a trust?

GC: Costs depend on turnover. There will be audited accounts and other small expenditure - similar to running a business.

BM: There are fees involved in setting up the trust but the FSA will cover these legal costs as we are members.

GC: There are various aims associated with being at rust including:

  • Democracy - one member one vote
  • Profits reinvested back into the club
  • Transparency and good governance 

Trusts work for other clubs and fan groups. The FSA can put you in touch with others for advice and support. They can give access to networks and contacts around the country.

Ownership of a club via a trust is a special thing and not to be taken lightly. 

BM: The executive committee will work with the FSA to reach a point where we can hold an extraordinary meeting to expunge the association and become a trust.

Club update

BM: We have five shareholders: Neil Pinkerton. Trevor Clark, Laurence Dinning, Mark Nellist and Gareth Mordey.

We have had great support from Gateshead Central Taxis in terms of advertising etc. People are involved, not for ego, but for the good of the Gateshead community. There is a lot of work ongoing to clear up the mess left behind by the previous regime. This season is a learning curve. Many members of the Soul committee are involved on a match day. We could not manage on a matchday without the volunteers. We need everyone to muck in to make it work.

BM asked for a round of applause for volunteers.

There are plans to further improve the matchday experience and to strengthen the commercial side to increase revenue. We need to get more fans in and make money out of them.  We are looking at different ways of marketing. We need people to promote the Soul to their friends at the match.

We have a good group of shareholders not in it to make money and they will continue to support us as long as the people of Gateshead do likewise.

Gateshead FC Foundation:

Alan Weddle updated on the Gateshead FC Foundation charity. Neil and Trevor were committed to getting the community and charity side of things going. Investigations were undertaken to see if the existing charity could be regenerated, it had never been used had no bank account and only one trustee - Ranjan Varghese. He is no longer a trustee and has been replaced by 8 new trustees: Alan Weddle, Stephen Thornton, Emily Fawcuss, Ross Black, Ian Wilson, Tracie Wilson, Neil Pinkerton and Trevor Clark. Work is ongoing to set up a bank account and a strategic action plan has been set. Money can be obtained from various grants and organisations including the National League. Links have been made with other charities and community organisations and we hope to work with them in the future. 

It will be around 6 months before we are in a position to officially launch as there are a lot of things to put in place and people to get on board.

Question: What sort of things will the foundation do?

AW: It is early days and there is nothing specific but it will be things geared around health and well-being - including football training and walking football.

Roos Black: the club will dedicate a day to the foundation when we officially launch and we are liaising with other groups to see how we can support them.

Membership update:

Karl McInnes: Membership cards are now available - they can be collected on match days or posted out to ex-pats. We do check bank statements and if payments stop membership will be rescinded. We have approximately 150 members and have a target of 200 by the end of the season. We would like more junior members - it is only £12 a year and comes with all the benefits of adult membership including free entry to events. We apologise for being unable to confirm memberships initially - this was due to being unable to access the bank account. We are all volunteers, learning and developing as we go along.

Without your money, we cannot meet our commitment. We can’t sit back - the others are involved because of our commitment. We need to grow and build and pay our way. Without our members, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are.

Fundraising and merchandise

David Allen: We have raised over £400 from merchandise so far and are about to launch a new range of fleeces and hoodies ready for the cold weather. Merchandise is available on a match day.

We have had a number of events - race night, band night and the recent Meet the Gaffers night which raised around £500. We will be planning more events over the next few months. The quiz is back at the Grey Nags Head on the first Thursday of each month. Hopefully, the club will send teams of staff and players. 

RB: The club recorded the Gaffers talk in and it is available on YouTube for those that missed it. It was a good night but the turn out wasn’t great and we would appreciate feedback on why that was. We need to know what sort of events you want and why you might not have attended those we’ve hosted. We don’t want to overwhelm people with too many events but we need them to make money. The £10 fee for the Gaffers night matched a months membership and food was included. 

BM: We need to raise £25,000 a year to pay our way and to make sure the club continues to exist. There is no point in doing things if people aren’t interested so we welcome ideas. We have listened to feedback and tried to move around the borough but Pelaw Club has been great supporters of the Soul and let us use their rooms for free.

AOB

BM: We feel a monthly open meeting is too much at the moment so instead will have an informal chat prior to the quiz to discuss issues, or you can speak to any member of the committee on a match day. We will move to an open meeting once a quarter - the next hopefully being an extraordinary meeting to formalise the trust.

Question: Are we in a position to repay any debts? (from the last regime)

BM: Shareholders have cleared outstanding debts - this has to be done to allow us to continue. There are still things to come out of the woodwork.

Question: Will bridges be built with those who were owed money?

BM: Where possible, yes.

Question: Any truth in the rumour the club are taking over concessions at the stadium?

BM: Talks are in place with the council to gain control so we will get revenue from food and drink.

Question: How can we attract younger fans?

BM: Complimentary tickets are given out to schools and football teams. Rooney the Goat has been a big success in reignited interest in the club for younger people.

AW: The Foundation will be running sessions for children on matchdays.

Question: Do ball boys/girls get anything from the club?

BM: They get a program and a junior season ticket - plus the chance for a penalty shoot-out with Rooney at half time.

Away Travel:

RB: Spaces still available for Altringham on Saturday - £22 per person. Looking at travel for FA Cup v Kidsgrove, contact Ross, Sam Jupp or Andrew McInnes is interested.

Communication:

BM: We rely heavily on social media to communicate but aware not everyone has access to it. We are looking at different ways of getting our message across.

Question: Why are we never on the local tv news?

BM: Since we dropped out of the National League we won't get any coverage. We can’t rely on the media and get little press coverage. Fans need to ring Total Sport to help spread the word.

Question: Can we put posters up in the toilets at the stadium to promote the Soul?

BM: The council will allow certain things - they’ve allowed us to make a big difference on a match day. We will have Soul posters on the concourse advertising important dates and we now have a presence on a match day. We need help, support and suggestions to enable us to promote ourselves.

Fanzine:

Kenny’s on Corners is a new Gateshead FC fanzine looking for contributions. Thank you to editor Andrew Keith for a donation of £50. Please contact Andrew if you’d like to submit a piece.

Question: Racist remarks were heard at a game, how can we stop this happening?

BM: There is zero-tolerance and anyone using racist language will be banned. We need to self-police, point out culprits and inform stewards or Jeff Elliot who monitors things on a match day. Following the incident mentioned reactions from fans around the perpetrator stopped it and a ban followed. Gateshead is a family club and we don’t want that sort of behaviour associated with us.

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